Make your own bag stations – anybody tried this?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by beattie beattie 6 years, 8 months ago.

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    Jan Shea
    Jan Shea

    I’m back with more questions.
    The Chickadeez and Friends have another opportunity to display and give away our bags – this time at a evening festival – “So Bazaar” here in Redmond, Washington.

    The coordinator is asking us if we could have an interactive booth where participants make their own bags. Has anyone done this? I’m thinking it would have to be sewing only, notcutting or pressing as it’s too time consuming.

    I like the idea, just wondered if anyone has tried it and what were the challenges.

    Thanks! Jan


    Yay Jan!! You’re going the whole hog! 😀

    Yes we’ve done this – lots! The most recent event was the Handmade Fair in May

    The Handmade Fair!

    How much space will you have? How many machines can you fit in? How many supervisors? It’s helpful to have a person not involved in teaching / supervising outside the booth or on the entrance looking for the next customer/ talking about what you’re doing / handing out some bags you made earlier.

    Will there be an electric supply? If not do you have a hand crank sewing machine or more than one? If your event is in the evening who supplies lighting – it needs to be good to thread needles.

    Opinions on this vary, but I agree with you – that you’re best to start with cut out and pressed kits ready to be sewn. You’ll find that a newbie sewer can take 20 – 30 minutes to make a bag.

    If you want to give more people a taster bag-making experience you may want to start them off with part-assembled bags. You could make up bags so they just need the side seams to be finished, or maybe add the label and sew the side seams.

    You’ll need to think about what your policy will be about children. We don’t allow unaccompanied children to sew with us, they need to be with Mum/Dad/ Grandma who is responsible for them. What age are they responsible for themselves? Good question….

    There are quite a few events like yours described on the old morsbags (now read-only) website. Here are a few to get you started –

    You could search for Festival of Quilts, Knitting and Stitching Shows, Textile Shows, Clarence House, Kew Gardens, Craft4Crafters. These are all events where we’ve done “make yourself a morsbag” experiences.


    Yes we have had a lot of fun from this sort of thing.
    An evening show suggests you will have 3 hours or so which means 6 bags per machine assuming you start from pressed kits and your clients have average skills. You can have more machines but you will need a helper for each 2-3 machines and space to match. I don’t recall that we have ever got over 8 machines ourselves, but that was for multi-day events.
    Any machines can be used but the modern electronic type are easiest for users and re-threading etc. Speed limiters are good too. Make sure helpers are familiar with their machines or have a troubleshooter for problems. Encourage helpers to assist each other too.
    Expect some sewers to have never used a machine before and some to be terrified of them. Persevere with them as they will be the most delighted with what they achieve.
    Have a plan to enable disadvantaged sewers. With a little forethought almost anyone can make a bag. Some electric machines don’t need foot pedals for example if you know how!
    Manage the queue (line?) who wait for a turn. The big no-no is people waiting for an hour and not getting a go before you close. A row of chairs is good, chase off standers and thin the chairs out towards the end.
    Have a cache of finished bags to give away on a whim.
    In the past we have done demos using hand crank and bag decorating ( felt tips glue etc for kids)
    Think insurance

    Have fun and good luck


    Hello, Jan,
    last weekend I had my fifth morsbag making event and can tell you about some experiences.
    Children: I have actually sewn with 4-year-olds – they are very sweet and I just couldn’t turn them away. But, oh boy, did I have to look out for my fingers or they’d have sewn them straight onto the bag. After 2 such experiences I decided that all children must be accompanied by an adult who actually sits next to them and watches what the kids are doing.
    In my experience children can sew quite well from the age of 10. But possibly I was just lucky to have kids there who knew what they were doing!

    Showing morsbags : I used Beatties “security” systemof sliding bags over a bit of rope and fastening them with pegs. That worked rather well! Thank you!

    After the actual sewing I handed out photocopied instructions on how to make morsbags for future morsbags projects. The German pod “Duisbags” made up German ones which are absolutely wonderful.

    But what noone can prepare you for are the pitfalls such as “funny” people. One lady came up to us with a bag she had in her possession (not a morsbag). It was too long for her liking and she wanted it altered to suit her needs. I had to become very assertive and told her that we’d make morsbags first and IF there was time and someone who volunteered maybe we’d take care of her bag. (She was handicapped and couldn’t sew by herself.) The morsbaggers rose to terrific heights and devised a clever plan how to alter this bag. When one machine couldn’t sew through the thick material, another morsbagger took over. This was great but gave us the clever idea of organizing cards from the local alteration service to hand out to such “customers” next time.
    One lady, a repeat-morsbagger, asked whether we could teach something different next time. Clearly she got a bit bored by always the same pattern! So, I told her about a fabric shop that has sewing classes. Maybe I should get their cards as well?

    People always find it hard to understand that morsbags and morsbags workshops are FREE. They alsways want to donate money, fabric, thread, anything at all to show their gratitude. So, for my next events I had the idea of imitating Jamie Oliver with his “pass-it-on pledge”. He gave cookery classes and urged participants to teach this dish to a specified number people, who in turn should teach it to as many people. This way knowledge would spread.

    Do you have stories of unexpected behaviour from visitors? They would be entertaining but also a good preparation for future morsbags events.


    Thank you for some great tips and anecdotes Gudrun! 😀

    We’ve had some funny people too – like the man who only wanted a bag if it was made of “cat” themed material. I explained that we used recycled leftovers and castoffs and were fresh out of cat fabric. He didn’t want to make a bag in that case.

    I use people’s feeling of guilt at taking a free bag and not giving anything in return to encourage them to use the bag, not leave it in a drawer, or for “best” but take it with them as often as possible. Accepting donations of fabric / thread is great too – or get them to make some bags to pass on as well.

    Jan Shea
    Jan Shea

    Thank you Gudrun, Beattie and Masterclock for all your great ideas and suggestions. As it turned out, we were asked not to have participants do any sewing – only to give a demo on how to make. We did have a couple of young moms adding if we gave sewing lessons! Not yet….
    We also had 100 pre made bags to give out.
    The festival was to run from 5-10pm. By 7:30 all 100 bags were gone, plus the dozen or so I was able to finish between questions and conversations.

    Added 16 people to our mailing list – many wanting to donate fabric and/or thread, help with sewing, etc. Received $37 in cash donations.

    On our to do list:
    1. Make a Facebook Page for our group
    2. Find a central drop off location for fabric and thread
    3. Find a large venue for our next group sewing session
    4. Find a location/date for our next bag distribution. Hoping to find a store where they’ll let us just hand out the free bags to people walking by! These festivals are exhausting – but fun!
    5. Send out the first (of hopefully many) newsletters to those who wants to join our cause.
    6. Sleep 😉


    Thanks for a great report Jan! You did great and sound very happy! I hope you enjoyed the evening. It is much easier logistically to just do a demo and hand-outs than to organise newbies to sew for themselves. You were so quick sewing up another dozen bags while talking and handing out bags – fantastic. 😀

    Another 16 people interested is good work too. Good luck finding a drop-off point for fabric and thread, it’s well worth having. A fruit and vegetable shop near us takes in donations and phones me when they need picking up. Easy for the donors to find and they’re open predictable hours. We’ve had trouble finding somewhere to use for larger sewing workshops, perhaps your $37 could go towards that.

    In this country many stores don’t mind if you stand outside and give out free bags. Some, particularly smaller stores that sell organic produce, are thrilled to work with us. In the UK the street is a public area where it is legal to stand or walk and give things away. If we accepted money for bags we’d need a licence as that would count as selling, but as they are free it is quite legal – this is the original concept behind morsbags and “guerilla bagging”.

    Good luck with your next project – let us know what it is and don’t hesitate to ask if you think we might be able to help.


    Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the art of uploading photos yet. But my friend has now put a post about our last bag making workshop online. If you click here, you can see my handy display of the “morsbags metamorphosis”:
    Pack einen Stoffbeutel ein!
    I prepared it once and never do a workshop without it because it proved to be so useful!


    I enjoyed your friend’s blog about morsbags Gudrun. I also have a “how to make a morsbag in steps” demonstration kit. I love the beautiful fabrics you’ve made into bags. Those “vintage” style fabrics are right in fashion here now. I like the wire basket you use to display – are they folded bags or kits ready to sew? Good work! 😀


    Hi Jan, I run a biggish pod in Leicester (where they found a king buried in a carpark!) Like Beattie and Masterclock I have been going quite a while! Being in a biggish city, I have never had any problems finding venues to meet, store machines, fabric etc. What I tend to do to ‘persuade’ potential venues how good it would be for them to have morsbag events there. I say we have no money coming in but we could possibly make bags for their events etc. I think I have set up about 20 pods in our county and none of them have had to pay for venues. At the moment we meet once a week in a fabric store/warehouse. They were very pleased to have us there, we have a trail of people coming up to see us, we give away about 10 morsbags and 10 kits per week to their customers when we meet on thursdays. Today I found another potential sewer. They have a fabric donation bin for us. We promote them on social media and everyone is happy! I would suggest just talking to everyone about what you are looking for and sooner or later something will come along.

    There are quite a few active pods on Facebook. We find it works really well for instant publicity, networking and generating growth. But this website is all of our base and probably the best place for this sort of discussion. Every pod is different and do things in different ways and that is fine. As long as the end result is a sturdy free shopping bag to use instead of a plastic bag that is fine.


    Beattie, here in Germany vintage and retro fabrics are fashionable, too.Mine tend to be actual “treasures from the past”, aprons or pillow cases. The bundles in the wire basket are kits ready to sew. I followed your advice and prepared them, handles pinned in place, all secured with a bit of ribbon. This deters many though not all from unfolding everything and making a huge mess.

    Jan Shea
    Jan Shea

    Thanks so much Beattie, Gudrun, Masterclock and Offcuts for all your suggestions.
    We had a Sew A Thon at our local library on Monday and I used the idea of tying up some bundles to take home. Several people took advantage of those to take home along with the instructions. Two ladies that did will be joining our pod next month!
    Also, loved the “Metamorphosis of a Morsbag” idea!
    We did something similar on the bulletin board at the library and it really helped to explain things.
    We have finally found a drop off location at one of our members workplace. It’s a warehouse one block from the city hall – so here’s hoping that works.
    The library was also super easy to work with – as long as their meeting room is open, we can hold our sewing events there and hand out the bags near the entrance. Managed to give away over 100 on Monday.

    Set up a Facebook Page – have started to attract some followers – feel free to check it out when you have a minute. Could definitely use some suggestions:

    Just getting out there and meeting people gives us connections – we are being invited to do another event at an Organic Farm Coop in 10 days. They have a Squash Festival – Squash out your Carbon Footprint event. I think we will fit right in 🙂

    The Northwest Harvest Food Bank wants all the bags we can provide for bagging up food for the low income folks in the International District of Seattle. We are dedicating the month of October to that.

    Thanks again for all you have shared – this helps tremendously,
    And special congratulations to Beattie on what you did for the Great British Sewing Bee – what an accomplishment!

    Well I’m back off to the sewing machine.

    Cheers, Jan


    Wow, Jan, you’ve been so busy! Isn’t it wonderful how one event links to another, you are seen in one place and as a result get invited to the next. We’ve had some lovely experiences and attended lots of interesting shows and other places where morsbags can be made and/ or given away.

    I love the whole list of places you’ve been to or will be attending soon. Some pods in this country have also found that food banks are a great way to get bags out into peoples’ hands. Have a great time 😀

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